May, 2011 Update: unfortunately, this bag is no longer available.

The Highs: Big bang for the buck, simple good looks, killer price

The Lows: Basic backpack straps, can’t speak to durability

The Verdict: A solid alternative to higher priced bags for the occasional traveler

Travelers wanting to avoid fees for checked baggage definitely ought to check out the new FlightWise collection from Lands’ End. Including duffels, wheelies, backpacks, and convertible bags, the FlightWise bags are all packed (ha) with thoughtful features, sport very attractive prices, and of course are of legal carry-on size.

Take the FlightWise “Carry-On Softsided Bag,” for example.  A maximum legal carry-on convertible bag/backpack, it features an expandable main compartment, two generous pockets on its front, a fully padded laptop compartment that will accommodate laptops up to ~14-5/8″ x ~9½” and which includes several pockets for power bricks and other accessories, a comfortable shoulder strap, and padded backpack straps which deploy from a rear compartment.  Let me jump right to the punchline:  at present, this bag is on sale for less than $65.

That pricing puts it in the value arena occupied by bags like the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-On, which is to say, this is an awful lot of bag for an absolute killer price.

Before going any further, let’s take a look at the bag’s specs.

Specifications

  • Fits all standard overhead storage compartments
  • Suitcase with carry strap converts to a backpack
  • Overall dimensions:  22″W x 14″H x 7″D (55.9 x 35.6 x 17.8cm)
  • Weighs 2lbs., 14oz  (1.3 kg)
  • Construction:  600 denier ballistic ripstop polyester, lined in 210D polyester
  • Expandable main compartment with two compression straps
  • Unzips to expand an extra 2″ in depth (non-expanded dimensions:  22″ x 14″ x 5″ (55.9 x 35.6 x 12.7 cm))
  • Padded laptop compartment with 4 zippered storage pockets
  • Two large pockets on bag front for magazines, travel documents, more
  • Grab handle on one end
  • Metal hardware; splashproof zippers throughout
  • Backpack straps deploy from rear compartment
  • Available in 3 colors:  Arctic Gray (shown here), Black, Dark Sapphire
  • Comes with slide-out luggage tag; clear sided, one quart TSA 3-1-1 kit also included
  • Also includes a sewn-in luggage tag in main compartment
  • Can be monogrammed by Lands’ End
  • Imported

A photo tour…


The front of the bag features two fairly large, zippered pockets:  both measure appx. 19″ x 11″ (48.3 x 27.9 cm) (The lower pocket extends up to the zipper of the upper pocket, giving both the same dimensions) -

A view of the zipper which opens the expandable panel for the main compartment; note the use of splashproof zippers everywhere.  The zippers operate smoothly and the vinyl pulls are comfortable to use:

The back of the bag:  the laptop compartment is unzipped at the top, and the pocket which houses the backpack straps is unzipped, right:

A view of the laptop compartment.  There are 4 zippered pockets for accessories and a power supply, and the compartment itself is well padded.  The laptop shown here is a ThinkPad T510, and it’s right at the maximum size for this compartment.  The T510 measures 14-5/8″ x 9-5/8″…

Sorry for how inelegant this image is, but it nevertheless affords you a view of the bag’s main compartment.  Note the sewn-in luggage tag at the top of the compartment’s cover, a nice feature should the normal tag somehow get torn off.  Of course, you won’t be checking this bag, so the extra tag is perhaps a bit superfluous:

The bag’s backpack straps won’t encourage you to use this bag for hitchhiking across the country, but they’re adequate for navigating concourses:

As a point of reference, the Redd Oxx Air Boss alongside the FlightWise Carry-On.  The FlightWise is a bit longer, but not quite as wide (even when expanded).  Aside from minor dimensional differences, however, the bags are basically the same in terms of overall size.  The Red Oxx bag’s construction is much more robust, of course, and these bags serve different niches within the market.

The bag includes a nifty slide-out luggage tag:

Key hardware items are plated steel, and seem more than robust enough for regular duty:

The inclusion of a grab handle on one end is a great feature, very helpful when retrieving the bag from an overhead compartment:

A close up of a zipper pull and stitching.  The subtle pattern in the ballistic ripstop gives it an attractive look:

The air foam padding on the shoulder strap provides a bit of extra comfort; there’s not a lot of “give” to the pad, however.

Box stitching is employed at critical points:

Lands’ End also includes a handy 1 quart, clear sided 3-1-1 kit with all of the FlightWise bags, a nice plus.

Several different bottles are included, along with a toothbrush holder (I suppose this technically doesn’t belong in your liquids bag), as well as a small container for ointments or cream.

A word about color: the white balance must have been off when I took the photos shown here.  Although the bag is not quite as dark gray as shown at the Lands’ End site, there’s a warmish cast to the images in this post that frankly isn’t accurate.  Here’s a shot I took outdoors, which should give you a better idea of the bag’s true color; sorry for any confusion!

Wrapping up

This is hardly a replacement for my Air Boss, but I’m very impressed by the bag’s price/value ratio.  Its feature set is very solid, and as I mentioned at the top, it’s an awful lot of bag for the money.

I can’t attest to the bag’s durability, but my initial impression is positive.  It’s well made and the quality of the stitching is solid.  Ripstop should prove to be quite durable in the field, and if you’re not checking this bag, it should be plenty durable for the average traveler.

At the current sale price of $62.99, this is a bag that’s tough to ignore.  See it at the Lands’ End site:  FlightWise Carry-On Softsided Bag

The Fine Print:  I have no connection with Lands’ End, but I was provided a sample bag to assist in the writing of this review

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39 Comments on Review: Lands’ End FlightWise Carry-On softsided bag

  1. tlc says:

    Can you post a picture next to a Tom Bihn Aeronaut?

    Thanks

    [Reply]

  2. Bill says:

    Kevin:

    When you say this bag is “hardly a replacement for your Air Boss”. Based upon the review, the bag appears to be a pretty good competitor with a few unique touches. What causes you to hesitate choosing this bag over an Air Boss?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    I probably should have elaborated a bit. I haven’t traveled with a laptop for ~18 months, so the laptop compartment, although sweet, is not useful to me.

    When it comes to business travel (several oxford shirts, a sports jacket or two), I vastly prefer the Air Boss. Plus I like its rugged good looks.

    [Reply]

  3. Harris says:

    Since I have not seen this bag, I cannot speak for its durability, however we outfitted our four children w/Land’s End luggage for summer camp and college, and were quite pleased with how the various pieces of luggage held up to years of “kid abuse”. I would assume that this collection would be as good.

    [Reply]

  4. Pat says:

    Thanks for the review. I might put an order in since they have the 30% off friends and family coupon through tonight.

    [Reply]

  5. Michael W. says:

    The mid 80′s to mid 90′s seemed like the golden era of soft luggage from Land’s End. Good to see they are getting back to their roots.

    People who use these bags should be careful of “zipper spill” where you haven’t quite zipped the main compartment zippers together and the weight of the contents puts pressure on the small opening and it opens wider and spills. This happened to me on my last trip with the OPEC. The Red Oxx products – including the bargain-priced, utilitarian line of Aviator Duffles (actually just unlined fabric suitcases) all come with “anti-spill” zippers that won’t start moving on their own.

    Red Oxx is the only company I know who uses such big, anti-slip zippers. Most other companies use “coil” zippers and they WILL spill if you don’t keep an eye on them. Not a “killer” problem just something to be aware of.

    [Reply]

  6. Michael W. says:

    BTW it’s hard to find good “flight bags” which are a handy companion to a full-sized soft suitcase or convertible backpack. I used to use a Gator from Red Oxx but the bag itself, although marvelously organized, was pretty heavy (weight penalty). I have also tried the Patagonia Lightwire Brief and am now trying the Patagonia MiniMass (ultra light, doesn’t have the Velcro issues of Timbuku2 messengers) which has the capacity of the Gator but not its weight.

    I clicked on your link for the Land’s End carryon and jumped to their flight bag:

    http://www.landsend.com/pp/Sty.....8-_-392555

    I have to admit on first glance it doesn’t look attractive but at it’s advertised price I’d be interested in your thoughts on it or, longer term, on a comparo of your favorite “flight bags.”

    While you are able to ditch a flight bag (based on your past articles), some of us can’t and of course on some regional flights a sub 35″ (total linear dimensions) flight bag is all you can carry on….

    [Reply]

  7. Richard J Laue says:

    In the photo with the AirBoss next to this bag, is the Lands’ End bag extended the extra two inches or not?

    Do you think the bag could slide under the seat of a major aircraft, if the overheads were full?

    Thanks in advance -
    RJLaue

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    RJ:

    Sorry, I missed your questions – the answer to both is “No.”

    [Reply]

  8. Bill says:

    I am purchasing one for my college-age son. I found a code that is good only for today, Tuesday 11/16/2010. It provides 30% off and free shipping – total cost is $47.00.

    Enter Promo Code: Leshare30 and then PIN: 7785.

    [Reply]

  9. Richard J Laue says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Bill!

    I just ordered one — slate grey, with monogram, shipped to Hawai’i — total cost $51.15.

    Lands End has a 100%, no-weasel-clauses moneyback guarantee, so how can you go wrong? I even called them to ask if getting the monogram would cause a problem with a return, and they said “nope — 100% means 100%!”

    Plus there was NO extra charge for shipping to Hawai’i/Alaska (although the shipping was free in this case). Most companies tack on a surcharge for Hawai’i or Alaska, and the surcharge can be quite considerable!

    Kevin, you’re doing a good thing with this list — your reviews are excellent, and the cameraderie on this list is exceptional. Many thanks to all, or as we say in Hawai’i, “mahalo!”

    Cheers and aloha -
    RJLaue

    [Reply]

  10. Sean says:

    Thanks for the great review. I almost went for the Air Boss, but couldn’t quite swallow the high price tag (despite how long it would likely last). So, I just ordered one of these instead. By the way, I used the promo code KEEPWARM (pin 7440) for 20% off — $51.20 after tax. And, if you use a Discover card, you can get 10% cash back at landsend.com by going through the Discover cash back partner website. Looks like a pretty good bag for around $45. Thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Sean,

    Glad the review was of help. You got a killer deal – this bag is an absolute steal at the price. Thanks for commenting!

    [Reply]

  11. Michael W. says:

    Actually that is a nice laptop compartment. Patagonia has one large padded compartment which means a smaller laptop slides around a lot, and bangs against the power brick if it is in there too (which it usually is).

    This one is segmented. I could probably stow my phone and its charger in one of those side slots if I can get the power brick and cord for the laptop in just one side (not sure if I could).

    [Reply]

  12. Lee says:

    Remembered this posting when I stumbled upon the Land’s End site today. A head’s up: this bag is currently priced, with free shipping, at less than $50. On the Land’s End homepage, you’ll see all the information you need to take advantage of a 25% discount plus free shipping on orders over $50. I do not see this information on any individual product page, however, so make sure you start at the homepage and then search for this bag.

    Unlike many other sites, Land’s End calculates the free shipping on the pre-discount price, so although the price drops below $50 with the discount, you’ll still get free shipping. If the bag’s a heckuva value at $65, it’s even better at less than $50.

    [Reply]

  13. Bill says:

    I did purchase this as a gift, but couldn’t resist packing it. I loaded it up with my typical 2-3 day business trip. This included:

    1 sport jacket
    1 pair of pants
    2 dress shirts
    Socks, underwear, t-shirts in a packing cube
    running shorts, t-shirt and socks in a packing cube
    1 pair running shoes
    shaving kit
    Liquids quart bag
    In addition,
    1 13.3″ laptop + charger
    2 phones + 1 charger
    headphones (Sennheiser collapsible)
    Kindle
    2 thin files

    I’ve not used this type of bag before and tried to pack using the Bundle Method. I made a mess, but a little practice would rectify the issue.

    My concersn are:
    - The strap was pretty thin and could see it becoming uncomfortable.
    - The bag did not hold my leather, letter-size portfolio very well. I’d probably switch to a Junior-size or Moleskin.
    - While it was great packing the laptop in a separate sleeve, I’d still need to carry a small briefcase or bag to hold my stuff for the business meetings. I wouldn’t be lugging the Lands End back into a client meeting.

    Now, I am wrestling with the decision: Do I purchase a RO Air Boss for $225 or the Lands End for $50?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Bill:

    Good points. I’d use the Bihn Absolute strap if the load was greater than 10 or 12 pounds – I have 3 of these straps, and they’re the only ones I use on over the shoulder bags unless the load is really light. The LE bag is such a steal, what’s another $20 for a strap?

    As for the Air Boss vs. this bag, I think it comes down to how frequently you travel and intangibles (brand, image, appearance, style, etc.). Only you can answer the question.

    Thanks for packing it and providing a report!

    [Reply]

  14. Scott says:

    I got this bag for a great deal – $42+/- monogramed and shipped. I have several of these type bags, and just got to use this one on a recent trip. I have used the Ebags Weekender Motherlode for the last few months (almost daily) and love it, so its my basis for comparision. I was luck enough to get it for about the same price.
    My one main complaint w/ the Ebags is looks and that is where the Lands End shines. It is a really nice looking bag. The Ebags just doesnt look good carried as a shoulder bag, it looks like a sideways backpack. You could walk into a board meeting with the LE.
    They both seem to carry similar ammount of stuff. The Ebags has more compartments, the LE a bigger open space with a couple small pockets in the front.
    The computer compartment goes to LE – very well designed and easily accessible with lots of pockets for other gadgets. It is hard to access the Ebags one when loaded.
    The straps: The Ebags could be loaded up and taken on the Appilachian Trail. The shoulder strap is just as good. The LE must have been designed by the makers of T Back panties – so thin. I wanted to carry it as a shoulder bag, because it looked good and I was very light. The shoulder strap was killing both of my shoulders after switching repeatedly, so I converted it to a backpack and solved that problem. It killed them both at the same time without having to swtich. Through a nice thick fleece. Horrible straps and not adequate for even navigating concourses as mentioned. I might get a nicer shoulder strap, but the backpack ones are pretty worthless IMO.

    [Reply]

  15. James says:

    Okay, so we have covered the Air Boss Vs. Flightwise…how about a Rick Steves Classic Back Door Bag vs Flightwise? They are both bags in the same price range and I do believe that you have experience with them both. So what do you think how do those two compare? Which one would you reach for?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    Did you see the stand-alone Rick Steves Classic Back Door Bag review on this Practical Hacks blog?

    I own both the Lands End Flightwise and the Rick Steves Classic and just finished a transpacific flight (14 hours to my first stop, 2.5 layover, 2.5 hours regional) and the Flightwise is SUPERB if you need to carry a 15.6″ laptop, as I did on this trip. A 15.6″ fits the central laptop slot perfectly, the power brick and cord fit the vertical slots on the side of the laptop slot, and the four zipper slots (one each on the cord slots, two running horizontally above the laptop) are great places to stow an iPod Touch, domestic and foreign cellphones, Vado (or Flip etc.) mini video, small camera, and their chargers (I tucked the iPod charger into one of the cord slots for easy access).

    During security transit, I temporarily stowed my TSA/medical liquids pouches in the laptop slot too. After security I moved them to the central compartment where they fit better (less bulging).

    OK, computer/electronics-centric travel is where the Flightwise excels.

    Where the Rick Steves excels is pure usable volume for clothing and toiletries. It doesn’t have a true laptop slot (just an essentially unpadded “water bladder” style slot in the main compartment). It doesn’t have all the padding that the Flightwise has – the Flightwise has padding on all four side plus that second padded panel to form the laptop slot; the Steves only has thin padding on the back panel (for comfort when in “backpack mode”). Well padding is good news and bad news – it gives structure to a bag and of course protects electronics, but REALLY eats into usable storage space. Also, if you are carrying a netbook sized computer, the laptop slot on the Flightwise is really too big.

    I was checking luggage through as well on my Flightwise-centric trip, so maximizing volume was not a requirement for me. If I had been truly “one bagging” it though, I would have used the Steves for maximum storage space, and carried my electronics in an attache.

    Finally, on transpacific flights, economy is limited to 7.5 kg carry on. I think the Steves may be a little lighter than the Flightwise….

    I also have the Patagonia MLC which has a fine padded computer slot, but it doesn’t have any compartments to match the Flightwise for cords, bricks, chargers, and other electronics. Flightwise is best if you are a gadget hound!

    [Reply]

    James Reply:

    Yes, I did see the review on the practical hacks for the Rick Steves classic bag that, actually, is what prompted my question on this review. I currently have a Red Oxx Air Boss, which I really like, and am looking for a second bag that I can use for leisure travel that has a large main compartment and has backpack straps. Originally, I was thinking about the MEI voyageur, which still might be the best choice, but there are many good options out there and I really like the price point of the Rick Steves bag and the Flightwise.

    From your response, it seems that if I were to travel without a computer that the the best bag for the job would probably be the Rick Steves. If I want to have a computer and maybe a few other gadgets the Flightwise would be the better option.

    [Reply]

  16. Frank says:

    Are the grab handles and trim real leather? They appear to be from the pics.

    Also, can anyone verify the weight of this as 2 lb 14 oz? If so, it would be on the lighter end of the spectrum, especially considering the padded laptop compartment.

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    All exterior panels are padded, not just the laptop compartment.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    I just weighed the FlightWise, and it came in a 2.4 lbs.

    The handles resemble leather; they are likely vinyl, but at the price, do you really expect genuine leather?

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    If you hadn’t weighed it Kevin, I wouldn’t have believed it. Other bags with much less foam way the same or more. I was going to try to weigh it, but my bathroom scale doesn’t have enough “resolution.”

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    I used my bathroom scale, which I believe is reasonably accurate. Either way, this bag certainly weighs less than 3 pounds.

    Frank Reply:

    Thanks for the weigh-in.

    Actually, landsend.com says the handles are indeed leather. Does it look fake to you?

    “…Web handles have leather padding. Imported. “

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    I have no reason to doubt Lands’ End; I’d forgotten that their specs identified the handles as leather.

    Michael W. Reply:

    Looks fake to me. Probably real if they say so, but looks fake to me.

  17. Scott says:

    There is nothing real about the “leather” on my Lands End bag, except that it is really fake.
    Also I used this for a long ski trip where I didnt bring my computer, but otherwise tested the maximum capacity of the bag. First of all I noticed that that no matter how full you stuff the main compartment, the computer area still maintains its “room”…meaning that is is kinda lost space unless you find other stuff to put in there. So use it one way or another. I ended up packing a jacket in it and using the actual computer slot for sock and it worked out ok. Nothing says you have to put a computer in the computer slot, I guess. I was kinda comforted knowing that my socks had some extra padding ;).
    Like I said, I had this thing as stuffed as you can get it without opening the expansion zipper. I ended up catching a earlier flight on an RJ and got it in the overhead compartment with minimal effort while all the rollerboards were gate checked. And my socks were OK when I got home.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Ha. Glad your socks are safe. It sounds as though you made out fairly well with the FlightWise.

    [Reply]

  18. Nicolaus Rand says:

    I purchased two of these bags after reading your review: One for me and one for Sweetie (the Wife). I also read some other reviews after yours (and watched the silly videos on YouTube for the FlightWise series bags). Gray was not available when I ordered my bags, so I opted for basic black. I also included monogramming so that Sweetie and I would know whose was whose.

    Traveling with the bags has been a pleasure. The only negative I can truly profess is that I had to carry both bags, one on each shoulder. (Sweetie uses her pregnancy as an excuse to get out of everything.) Eventually, I started carrying my bag with the backpack straps and her bag over one shoulder. Even fully loaded (with a MacBook Pro 15″ in my bag and a MacBook Air 15″ in hers) carrying the bags was comfortable.

    Of course not having to check bags was very convenient traveling here in Europe. And the separate laptop compartments made pulling out the computers for security and putting them back after much easier than other bags I’ve owned where the laptop ended up somehow mixed in with the clothing and then, by some Law (probably penned by Murphey) would not fit back in. Both bags squished easily into the overhead bins on most planes; on smaller planes the crew simply checked the bags at the aircraft, which never bothers me.

    The little dhobi kit included was perfect for security too. Sweetie put smaller dollops of her regularly-used lotions and creams into the provided bottles and we went through security without any delay.

    Durability has been great. The buckles and zippers have had zero problems to this point. The black color shows dust and dirt more easily than, say, brown would, but the bags clean easily with a wet wipe.

    We use the bundle packing method and completely unpack the suitcase when we arrive somewhere, putting the empty bags away. The bags are very light and pack away easily when empty. I own a set of Rimowa hard luggage, which simply takes up a lot of space whilst not in use.

    Overall, I would rate the bags very highly for One Bag/Travel Light sort of folks. For this price, there is nothing comparable out there. However, if you’re like my mother, who travels as though she were the Queen of Romania, this bag will not carry enough accoutrements to suit you.

    Safe travels and Godspeed.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Nicolaus, thanks for a great comment and I’m glad you’re happy with the bag. Lands’ End customers periodically receive 25% and 30% Off one day discount codes, and when you apply those, you just can’t touch this deal.

    [Reply]

  19. Susan says:

    Just when I read a review of what seemed the right bag at the right price (have looked at TB Tristar, Patagonia MLC,Rick Steves Convertible, LLBEan quest) I thought this bag would fit the bill. It’s no longer available at Lands End! Do you know what happened? I’m guessing it’s out of stock due to your fabulous review. I’d love the TriStar but as an occasional traveler it’s a want, not a need. I guess I’ll get the MLC.

    If you can find out what the story is on the Flightwise please post. Would love to get my hands on one before I leave for China in 5 weeks.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Susan,

    I just emailed my contact at Lands’ End; let’s see what he comes up with. Thanks for letting me know!!

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Susan,

    That particular bag has been discontinued; no reason given. The grey color has also been eliminated from the line. Only 4 bag styles remain available.

    Sorry! This bag was a killer deal, for sure. Maybe someone in Finance figured out what their margins were on it. :-(

    [Reply]

  20. Susan says:

    Bummer! I appreciate you checking.

    [Reply]

  21. Scott says:

    Shame its not available anymore as I was going to use this as a gift in the future.
    How do you think Lands End would handle a warranty claim? I was kinda moved by what I heard was a no questions asked warranty…

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Scott,

    I think Lands’ End would honor the warranty on any product they had sold in the past.

    [Reply]

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